Read it here – Say what comes next.
“Lend me your pistol, will you, Frank? Tony’s .38 is too big for a girl.” Roya leaned down to Frank as he sat on the park bench and when he dropped the .22 in her bag, she pressed keys into his palm. “I’ll call you later.” She kissed his ear and whispered. “Keep Tatiana safe.” Frank thought that over until it registered, then nodded to himself. Tony might trace the car to Roya’s sister. She was being careful.
Tony Ferragamo tilted his foot one way, then the other. “You owe me a new pair of alligators, babe.”
“Don’t get fussy about your wardrobe, Tony.”
He laughed. “Lady, even if this guy’s not my brother, we learned to shoot from the same school. Coulda crippled me good.”
“Frank’s a pro—the best.”
Frank recognized the roll she wanted him to play and tried to appear calm.
She went on, “And yes, the paperwork says he is your brother.”
“I wanna see that proof.”
Frank glanced from one to the other without moving his head. He wanted proof, too.
“You and Frank have every right to those papers—soon as we get out of this mess. Right now let’s move, before the police get here.” Roya immediately started down the sidewalk and Tony kept pace.
Frank leaned back on the bench and watched them out of sight.
He walked to the Mercedes. Cranked the ignition.
Driving back, he wondered. Maybe Roya planned to replace him with Tony for keeps. Not a bad idea. The guy might make a better asset—if she could control him. The idea of taking part in an assassination repulsed Frank, even when it meant killing the same mob boss that hunted him, and Roya had to know that. If she planned to take over Uomo Grasso’s organization—he shook his head. No. That was no place for him. Tony was the right choice.
Then why did the idea grate at his nerves? Was it the possible brother—the professional killer? Or did something else eat at him—something about Roya herself?
He checked the gas. Plenty to get back to Tatiana’s lake house. Nothing to do now but to stay hidden and wait.
* * *
Roya kept up a fast walking pace and glanced at Tony. “Where’s your car?”
“Ditched it. We’ll pick out another one.” This broad carried a commanding tone and Tony smirked at her. Still, she held her head high and met his gaze. Maybe she was all right or maybe she needed a lesson. He’d find out. His foot and knee hurt bad and this brisk pace didn’t help. His eyes still watered from her finger jab and his plans leaned toward the lesson she might need.
I’ve got a Russian friend in West Allis. You know it? West of Milwaukee.”
Tony didn’t answer. Then: “There’s one.” Tony nodded toward a small Chevy parked on a side street.
“Beats a Mustang all to hell. I spotted you in that thing in no time. Nobody’ll notice this one.”
Roya scowled then agreed. Within minutes they rolled down the road. “Take the highway east.”
Tony steered the little car and flipped on the radio. Roya immediately switched it off.
Tony grinned—this lady had an attitude but he respected that. He decided to keep quiet and keep the peace—for now. All his plans just turned upside down and he needed time to think. If that Frank was his twin brother, it changed everything. The resemblance did seem kinda crazy. What did he know that could disprove it? This Russian dame said the guy was a pro and Tony’s information made him a wannabe insurance man. Could be a quick cover. He shrugged. Nothin’ to do but wait and see the papers. If this Russian beaut stayed straight with him, he could end up second in charge of Chicago’s streets, and rich—
In a little less than an hour they rolled into West Allis. “This is an old Polish neighborhood. Lots of Russian émigrés now. Some of them friends.” Roya lowered her voice. “Some on the inside.”
Tony didn’t respond. So this was her turf. Better stay alert.
“Turn there. Fifth house on the right.” They parked in front of a bungalow and went inside.
Tony looked around at the furniture. A bunch of thrift shop rejects. Heavy masculine chairs. No pictures. Roll shades, no drapes. “Whad’ya say your friend’s name was?”
“I didn’t. It’s Nicky.”
In an instant his knife found her throat. With his other hand, he grabbed her belt, lifted her off her feet and backed her against a wall. “This ain’t no lady’s house. The place is a dump.” He pressed the knife harder, careful not to make a cut unless she moved. She glared at him and remained silent. Yeah, Tony could tell this gal was all right. Plenty of nerve. He released the pressure on the blade. “Tell me a different story. Convince me this time.”
She took a breath before she spoke. “Nicki doesn’t lives here, you ape. It’s a safe house. Don’t go all tight on me, Tony. Put me down. I’ve got lots of connections—inside here, inside there. How else you suppose I do business?”
“Wrong answer sweetie.” No question Tony had to kill this bitch—she as good as admitted to playing double with the mob and the Feds. But why rush things? He lowered her to her feet, pressing hard on the knife again. This time a thin trail of blood ran down her neck, trickled between her breasts, disappearing under her blouse. He withdrew the knife and poked the sharp tip into a vacant buttonhole. “Real pearl buttons. This one sliced off clean. So Luigi claimed you for hisself?”
Roya took another deep breath. “Friend of yours?”
“Yeah, we was friends once. That button trick—kinda his trademark.” Tony sliced through the threads of the next button. Pinched it between knife and thumb. Put it in his pocket. “Luigi’s dead. I own you now.” He figured he’d do this slow and let her enjoy it.
She wrapped her arms around him. “If you just wanted some fun, why didn’t you ask? I like my men strong, but not so rough.”
That sounded a lot more like it. He figured he’d put the fear in her, just like he wanted. Now she’d do anything to save herself. He’d kill her later, but first give her hope. “You wanna see tomorrow? Make this real good.”
“Anything Tony—anything you say.”
A pain, hard at the back of his neck like he’d never known and a flash of light. Tony went limp and fell to the floor. He heard his knife clatter. Saw her above him, watching. She slid a long flat piece of steel into her belt—looked like a slim jim. What did she do to his neck?
“Well, Tony. Did I, like you say, ‘Make this real good?’ Those were your words, were they not?” She smiled faintly. “Can’t talk?”
He worked his chin and tried to swear at her but the words came out garbled and the sweat ran down his forehead, into his stinging eyes. He tried again and this time gained command of his voice.”
“Watch your language around the ladies, Tony. No, don’t move your head—not an inch. Maybe you’re already a paraplegic—maybe not. We’ll see.” She produced a pair of handcuffs from her bag and bound his wrists together, elbows pointed to the ceiling, cuffs behind his head. “Doctor’s orders, Tony. This’ll keep your head still. Now I babysit. Try not to embarrass yourself, okay? I might not clean it up.”
She moved a kitchen chair close while he tried to blink the sweat out of his eyes. “Okay, you twitched a foot. You’re going to be fine—just don’t move for a while.”
Through a phlegm-filled throat, Tony forced out a short response.
“Tony! I told you about that language.” She placed her shoe against his forehead, the spike heel entering his ear canal. “Don’t you want to get better?”
She had him and he knew it. He closed his eyes. Cleared his throat. Cleared it again, then spoke. “Okay, you own me.” Tony figured it was the plain truth for the moment.
“That’s real nice, Tony but do I want you? I guess it depends. Let me think.” She paused. Stepped away. Tony opened his eyes in time to see the knife slice a button off his shirt.
“Now I own you, Tony. Let’s see if you can tell me everything I ever wanted to know about Uomo’s organization.” She rolled back his shirt. Stroked his pectoral with something wet. Lifted a syringe from the table—a big one. Looked like the kind they used on horses. Pointed it to the ceiling and squirted some liquid in the air. Plunged the needle into his chest.
* * *
Tony woke to Roya massaging his neck. The cuffs were gone. A cold wet towel lay across his brow.
“Feel good? Oh, that’s right, the headache. I should have warned you about that. It might last a few days. All my gentlemen friends say so—I mean the ones that misbehave. I’m pretty sure you can sit up now.”
Tony forced himself into a seated position while she cradled his head. As soon as he got upright, nausea swept over him and he tried to lie back to the floor.
“No, no, don’t do that.” She stood behind him, pressing her legs against his back. The sick feeling will pass. Here’s your chance to prove you’re a man. You’re on your own now, okay?” She stepped around him, sat on the kitchen chair and smiled, chin in hands.
It was all he could do to stay in a seated position. Tony knew he’d told her everything about organized crime in Chicago. Names. Places. Even the cop he killed at the station. Once he started talking, it all just came out and looking back, he found himself at a loss to explain it. It was like he wanted to tell her—like he’d been hypnotized. What he said after he blacked out, he didn’t know.
“What was in that needle?”
She smiled. “Even your government knows nothing of that. But it will make you much nicer company. Isn’t that wonderful news, Tony? You want more? No? Perhaps not. As a vegetable, you serve no purpose. Time to get off this dirty floor.” She helped him to his feet and to the kitchen table. As he sat, he took the opportunity to deliver a pinch.
She slapped him across the face and the impact sent a lightning jolt down his spine. He thought he’d fall from the chair.
“Did I make the dose too weak? I am not an Italian girl. Remember that when you work for me.”
“What did you say?”
“From now on, you’re my attack dog.” She laughed lightly again. “You know, I always saw you that way but you bit my hand. You won’t do that again, will you, Tony?”
He didn’t answer. He knew he’d never lay a hand on her again and nobody was gonna be allowed to even utter a threat against her. Something was different between him and Roya—something that felt permanent. He didn’t understand it, but he knew it for sure.
“Head stop spinning? That’s good. Did you ever see a Siberian tiger?”
He cleared his throat. “Yeah. At the zoo.”
“Did you know they are the biggest of all cats? I saw one that weighed 800 pounds. As a girl, I tamed one like that. I would lie against him and hear his rumbling purr…”
“I’m hungry.” Roya opened her phone. “Nicky, it’s me…Yes, I know but it can’t be helped. Trust me on this…Yes the usual place…Can you pick up pizza and beer on the way? Okay, thanks.” She put away the phone. “Nicki will be an hour. You’ll feel fine by that time—except for the headache.
* * *
Tony showered and seated himself at the couch with Roya as she watched an old movie. He felt almost alive again but not the same. The movie helped keep his mind off the headache. The sound of a key in a lock and Roya switched off the remote.
The front door opened and a man backed in and kicked the door shut. A huge man, easily 300 pounds, holding a boxed pizza and a six pack of beer. “Hope you like Bud.”
Roya got up and kissed his cheek. “Tony, I want you to meet Nicky—Nicholi Segovia. He’s deep inside, too. I didn’t think of aspirin, so you’ll have to settle for beer.
* * *
At the lake house, Tatiana scrambled eggs to go with toast and coffee and they sat on her patio by the shore. She didn’t make much conversation and Frank figured she knew not to ask questions about Roya’s business.
Frank was grateful for the coffee. He’d barely slept—his mind kept drifting back to Roya. When would she call? Was she safe with that guy? Would she use seduction to get what she wanted out of Tony? The ideas that ran through his mind made his jaw ache.
“Frank, is there something wrong with the eggs?”
He looked down at the plate of food and quickly picked up his knife and fork. “Any more coffee?”
Tatiana poured him a cup, then peered at him and nodded with a smile.
“It’s like somebody wrote it all over you with a marker.”
Now she had his attention.
“I’ve never seen it so clearly. You’re jealous over Roya, aren’t you? I think you’re in love.”
HOW TO PLAY–This is an interactive story based on Nate’s game in my novel. You get to say what comes next:
1.) KEEP IT SHORT – It’s easy to play Nate’s game. Just enter your idea as a comment like, “their jeep drives off a cliff.” Don’t worry about form—just suggest the next step in the story. I’ll pick one, write it, and post it as a scene in serial form.
2.) KEEP IT CLEAN – I hold the veto pen. In general, if it wouldn’t fly in an old 60’s Bond movie, then it’s out. Since this is an experiment, I get to add rules as we go along.
3.) SHARE – Your posts are a precious gift to me. Maybe you’ll help write my next novel. If so, I’ll list your name prominently as a contributor. If not, then we’ll just have a great time. I take you at your word that all ideas are your original thoughts. No criticism. No arguments. No lawsuits allowed. Let’s have some fun.